Turtle Tracks Newsletter January 2018
A New Year's Message From Your President
Hello and welcome to our first newsletter of the New Year.

As President of Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys, I would like to take this opportunity to update you on what happened in the Florida Keys and Save-A-Turtle in the last quarter of 2017.

On September 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma tore through the Florida Keys making landfall in the lower Keys as a Category 4 storm. To our knowledge, there is not a person in the Keys who has not been affected by the storm to some extent. For the turtles, this meant that all remaining nests, which were incubating, were lost to the storm; the exact data is still being compiled by the FWCC. It also meant that we saw zero nesting activity in the Keys post storm for the remainder of the season. Irma destroyed a lot of the Keys beaches, all of which were subject to sea turtle nesting whether they are among those surveyed by Save-A-Turtle or not. However, in some areas, the storm actually created new beaches, although much of that terrain is not accessible by humans at present.

Irma destroyed the homes, businesses and livelihoods of a large amount of our Board members and volunteers. Many of us are still displaced, living in trailers, temporary housing, or have already moved away from the Keys. We are all doing the best we can, as we regroup as individuals and an organization.

Very sadly, our mobile educational sea turtle trailer was completely destroyed in the storm. Despite being secured, a huge storm surge and 150 mph winds took the trailer away from its location and dragged it into the waters of the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve. We have made several trips out to the trailer in an effort to salvage anything we can, as well as surveying the best way to extract the remains from the Bight, however virtually nothing can be salvaged. We’ve lost the trailer itself, the solar array, batteries, all sea turtle friendly lighting, all merchandise, all displays, all educational materials, posters, materials for our event displays, and even the entire document history of the organization, almost 30 years worth of history. Immediately prior to Irma’s arrival, one of our Board members took the Save-A-Turtle scrapbook out of the trailer as a “just in case” thought, and secured it in her home. Although that home was compromised in the storm as well, about half of the scrapbook can be saved, it may not seem like much, but it’s a sign of hope.

In the wake of Irma, we are left with a very long road of recovery to walk as individuals and a community. Our organization had to put meetings and events on hiatus, and as you know we also cancelled our annual end of year celebratory banquet. If you are reading this and not living in the Keys, it’s hard to fathom the level of devastation that occurred, but it’s profound indeed. Those who remain are working around the clock to reclaim our way of life down here, and Save-A-Turtle is no different. Thanks to our incredible (all volunteer) Board, we were able to pull together and do an event in December at the Lower Keys Island Arts Festival. With true grit and little else, we set up a tent and our banner (pulled from the muck of the Coupon Bight) and supported this great community event, talking about sea turtles, the impact the hurricane had on the sea turtles, started raising funds for a new trailer, and spent some time in the sunshine with locals and visitors alike. Our volunteers are the greatest assets of Save-A-Turtle, and I’m personally deeply grateful for the incredible dedication, hard work and good humor they continue to put forth despite their own incredibly difficult circumstances.

As I look ahead to 2018, I see nothing but hope and good things for Save-A-Turtle. Fundraising has already begun for the new trailer, there has been interest among new potential volunteers for beach walkers to replace those who have already left the Keys, we are beginning to schedule off site events again, and our regular monthly meetings will be resuming in January as well. All of our Keys main permit holders will be traveling to St. Augustine the first week of February for the annual Marine Turtle Permit Holder’s Conference, and there has been nothing but caring people stepping forward wanting to become involved in our organization to help rebuild. It will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile comes easy.

I would personally like to extend my own deep personal thanks to the Board for all it has done since Irma, especially to Sherri Crilley who has gone so far above and beyond helping out other Board members, holding emergency meetings in her home, handling the super majority of internet commerce, designing the Irma relief t-shirts, and so much more. All of our Board members have stepped up, and truly an event like Irma is where the rubber meets the road for the good of what people are capable of.

Board elections have been deferred to February due to Irma, so those with a willingness and time to serve are asked to step forward and join. Now more than ever there is a need for us to commit to helping sea turtles survive, rebuild our organization, and support each other as we rebuild everything we hold near and dear.

We wish all of you a very happy New Year, and look forward to sharing our experiences with you through the year.

Keys Strong!

Harry Appel
President, Save-A-Turtle of the Florida Keys, Inc.

January Meeting
Monday,  Janurary 8th  at 6:30 pm
at The Turtle Hospital

Dr. Mader with Marathon Veterinary Hospital will be giving a presentation titled “the Flora and Fauna of Indonesia, including sea turtles!” 

Dr. Mader , a triple Board Certified veterinary specialist, was born in the upper Keys. Dr. Mader is the consulting veterinarian for the Key West Aquarium, the Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital, The Key West Butterfly Conservancy, the Theater of the Sea and the Monroe County (Sheriff Animal Farm) Zoo. Dr. Mader is an internationally acclaimed expert in Exotic Animal Medicine and travels over 50,000 miles every year teaching at Veterinary Conferences, Veterinary Schools and Specialty courses.
A Trip to the Dry Tortugas:
A Sea Turtles Perspective
Photo Credit: Sherri Crilly
Photo Credit: Sherri Crilly
Christmas Day 2017

I watched as everyone boarded the Yankee Freedom in Key West to head 70 miles west to the Dry Tortugas, the farthest territory of the United States. It was a beautiful day with calm seas of brilliant greens and blues.

The ride out, while very pretty, was uneventful as I really didn’t see any other turtles. However, schools of ballyhoo and flying fish were abundant! I was thrilled to see the pristine colors of the water and the islands we passed appeared to be unscathed by Hurricane Irma.

One key in particular was quite exciting to me as most of this particular little island is always underwater. However, I heard the announcer aboard the Yankee Freedom tell its passengers that since Irma, this little patch of a sand bar is now sitting higher in the water, and, while it has never been a viable place for sea turtles to nest, there is plenty of sand for my fellow sea turtles to make their way up onto the beach and lay their precious eggs! Flippers Up! I can’t wait to see how many mama’s utilize this precious island for the 2018 nesting season!

When we approached Fort Jefferson, I was happy to see that she too, remained pretty much untouched by Irma. While there is some damage to the moat, most of the Island and its surrounding waters, beaches and reefs fared well.

I decided to stick around and watch the passengers enjoy their Christmas Day. I swam around the water near where the ferry docks, and while I was camera shy, I know quite a few people saw me bobbing my rather large loggerhead body up and down. I then swam over to the pier, but was elusive to the many snorkelers in the water. I am happy to report that the marine life, coral and sea fans are still intact, and the amount of tropical fish, snappers, grunts , giant tarpon and great barracuda were numerous! I even came across 3 goliath grouper hanging out at the docks. The beaches looked as beautiful as ever, with lots of sand as well, so I know there will be many turtles nesting there again this season. And there is lots and lots of turtle grass for feeding. Again I say Flippers Up!

Finally it was time to head back to Key West, and Wow……I saw lots of fellow sea turtles on the way home. It was a wonderful sight! The passengers aboard were quite elated to see so many turtles swimming gloriously in the clear blue green waters of the Atlantic Ocean. All is all, it was a perfect day and the best way to spend Christmas.

By Sherri Crilly, SAT Board Member

Side note from Sherri:
Hurricane Irma definitely took its toll on the Florida Keys and our beautiful Reef. BUT….it’s not as bad as expected. I’ve gone out to Looe Key Reef several times since, and have seen just as many turtles as Pre-Irma. The “turtle grounds” as my husband and I call them, remain filled with an abundance of turtle grass and loggerhead turtles, providing lots of hope for the 2018 Turtle Nesting Season.

Photo Credit: Sherri Crilly
Photo Credit: Sherri Crilly
Colder water treatens sea turtles
Cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida

Rescuers are bringing cold-stunned sea turtles in Florida to warmer waters. Young turtles often live in the shallow waters where waters get colder faster while bigger turtles swim into warmer water in the Gulf. When water temperatures fall below...

Read more
Doppler: The ambassorder of Hope 2018
Upcoming Events

Nautical Flea Market

Save-A-Turtle will be at the Nautical Flea Market.

The Nautical Flea Market is at:
The Chamber of Commerce grounds
31020 Overseas Hwy
Big Pine Key

Saturday & Sunday,
January 13 & 14
8:00 am until 2:00 pm

Stop by and say hello!
Amazon.com Donations
Amazon will give .05% of all qualifying purchases as donations to Save-A-Turtle when you shop Smile.

Its simple, 1. click the image above and save Save-A-Turtle as your charity of choice 2. Shop Smile.Amazon.com when you shop amazon for all your holiday shopping
Social Media
Please be sure to visit us on social media, like our pages and share with your friends and family. With the recent events from Irma we need the support now more than ever so that Save-A-Turtle will be able to be back with the Educational trailer and materials to help raise awareness and spread knowledge about the Turtles here in the Keys and all over the world.